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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

 

Film at six

by Tom Sullivan

The Cambridge Analytica expose by Britain's Channel 4 News will either kill the data firm or drive its business through the roof. That is, once the dust and lawsuits settle. The first parts of the expose on the firm's seamy tactics hit over the weekend and there is more to come, says Channel 4, later today.

Bribes, women, a lie floated on the Internet that “doesn't have to be true. It just has to be believed.” Karl Rove's reputation just shank to the vanishing point.

The BBC reports:

The UK's Information Commissioner is to apply to court for a warrant to search the offices of London-based political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica.

The company is accused of using the personal data of 50 million Facebook members to influence the US presidential election in 2016.

Its executives have also been filmed by Channel 4 News suggesting it could use honey traps and potentially bribery to discredit politicians.

The company denies any wrongdoing.
In Trumpian fashion, the firm's chief executive Alexander Nix denies saying what he is caught on camera saying.

Step away from the keyboard

UK Commissioner Elizabeth Denham is not simply investigating Cambridge Analytica, but Facebook as well:
She told BBC on Tuesday she is also investigating Facebook and has asked the company not to pursue its own audit of Cambridge Analytica's data use. She says Facebook has agreed.

"Our advice to Facebook is to back away and let us go in and do our work," she said.

Denham said the prime allegation against Cambridge Analytica is that it acquired personal data in an unauthorized way, adding that the data provisions act requires platforms like Facebook to have strong safeguards against misuse of data.

Chris Wylie, who once worked for Cambridge Analytica, was quoted as saying the company used the data to build psychological profiles so voters could be targeted with ads and stories.
The controversy will turn up the heat on Facebook. The Washington Post reports that Cambridge Analytica was not the only outfit interested in mining the social media platform for personal data:
Facebook last week suspended the Trump campaign’s data consultant, Cambridge Analytica, for scraping the data of potentially millions of users without their consent. But thousands of other developers, including the makers of games such as FarmVille and the dating app Tinder, as well as political consultants from President Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, also siphoned huge amounts of data about users and their friends, developing deep understandings of people’s relationships and preferences.

Cambridge Analytica — unlike other firms that access Facebook’s user data — broke Facebook’s rules by obtaining the data under the pretense of academic use. But experts familiar with Facebook’s systems and policies say that the greater problem was that the rules for accessing the social network’s information trove were so loose in the first place.
Despite the Post's claim, it is not clear that Cambridge Analytica was the only violator. But with Facebook, isn't this, in part, a case of "You fucked up... you trusted us!"? No wait, that was Animal House. This was Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in college:
Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard

Zuck: Just ask.

Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS

[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don't know why.

Zuck: They "trust me"

Zuck: Dumb fucks.
Slate's Tiffany C. Li cautions that, digitally, we have led ourselves like lambs to the slaughter:
Ultimately, some responsibility should also fall to us, as consumers. We have created the privacy environment that allows for these violations to happen. We freely give up our data to various apps, websites, and companies. In return, we reap the benefits of many new technologies, including technologies that rely on use of personal data. You can blame Cambridge Analytica for using your data, or Facebook for collecting your data, or the government for not regulating either. But if the public really cares about preventing this kind of privacy violation, we need to change our social understanding of privacy and how data should be collected and used. Otherwise, we should stop being surprised when our most personal information is inevitably misused.
Let the buyer beware. We need to learn that when the apps are "free" we need to be even more skeptical.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.